When the Delano Union School District implemented school closures and adopted a distance learning model, Superintendent Rosalina Rivera made it clear that students with special needs would continue to receive the full range of support services.
“For me, that was non-negotiable," she said.
Rivera’s determination was shared by the DUSD staff members who are responsible for meeting the needs of these students, and with very little time for advance planning, the staff sprang into action.
Rivera has high praise for these staff members: “They really have been real-life heroes for our special needs students. Their genuine love for our students has been on full display.”
Among the staff members contributing to this effort are the five DUSD school psychologists. Don Asbridge, Tricia Crabtree, Maribel Garcia, Dr. Jorge Jimenez and Maricruz Velazquez are each serving students from two or more schools. These are challenging assignments under normal circumstances, involving many complex educational issues, and now the school closures have brought additional demands for collaboration, creativity and flexibility.
“Our school psychologists have ongoing responsibilities for students with IEPs and 504 plans," Rivera explained. "These students have many support systems in place, and these supports have to be maintained during the period of school closure.”
Rivera points out that the psychologists have an important leadership role in IEP team meetings and student assistance team meetings, and this leadership has continued during the current period of distance learning. “Our psychologists have always championed the cause of all of our students, not just the students on their own caseloads, and they have helped to make it possible for all our students, including those with special needs, to continue with their educational programs.”
Wendy Terrazas, director of special education, works closely with the psychologists, and says that meeting the social-emotional needs of the students is at the forefront of what they do.
“They are important participants on the mental health team for the district, and have the expertise needed to work in this capacity," Terrazas said. “Their concerns for the students and the families here in the Delano Union School District during COVID 19 has inspired them to develop a weekly newsletter for parents to help address the mental health needs of families and give parents suggestions on how to care for their mental health as well as their children.”
Asbridge has served as a school psychologist at DUSD for 14 years, and he has served in various roles relating to education and psychology in Kern County for 30 years. He supports students from three schools: Morningside, Princeton and Terrace.
“We will choose to continue to courageously and heroically press on into the future just as we in the DUSD have always done - for we are Delano Strong,” he said.
Crabtree serves as psychologist for Almond Tree and Harvest.
Crabtree compliments DUSD students and families for how they are handling the present situation.
“During very difficult times such as this, I like to remind people that it is OK to not be OK. I am proud to say that the students I have been working with are largely doing quite well," she said. "They seem to be successfully handling this very difficult time which speaks to the resiliency of the families in Delano, and I want to say, good job; keep it up!”
Maribel P. Garcia
Garcia started with DUSD as an intern teacher in 2011; she taught at Fremont for six years, and she is currently in her second year as a school psychologist.
“When deciding to become a school psychologist, I had the desire to not only continue supporting and serving our Delano students and families, but also my fellow colleagues,” she said.
Garcia serves students at Albany Park, Fremont and at the district’s pre-schools.
“None of us are immune from experiencing all the feelings that come along with these chaotic times. It’s during these times that we must support one another the most.”
Known throughout the district as “Dr. J,” Dr. Jorge Jimenez has been with DUSD for nearly 20 years. Jimenez's background includes degrees from the University of Southern California: bachelor's degree in psychology, master's degree in education (counseling psychology) and Ph.D. in education (counseling psychology).
Dr. Jimenez serves students at Cecil Avenue Math and Science Academy and at Pioneer School.
Maricruz Velazquez serves students at Del Vista, La Vina and Nueva Vista.
“During this time of school closures, our job changed as we went from our focus on special education assessments to focusing on the social-emotional well-being of our students and families," she said.
Velasquez sees the current circumstances as a source of greater strength.
“During this time, things will be difficult as we have to overcome this obstacle in life, but it will make us stronger and together we will see this through.”
The DUSD Mental Health Team is available to support all students and their families. To receive services, students and parents/guardians can call the DUSD Hotline at 661-721-5000 extension 00600.